The Reasoning behind the Act of Striking a Spent Match

978-0-87565-714-1 Paperback
6 x 9 x 0 in
220 pp.
Pub Date: 09/25/2019


  • Paperback $22.95
In 1976, at 2:00 one winter morning, paramilitary forces broke into a house in a quiet upscale neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Inside, sleeping, were two nineteen-year-old girls and a twenty-year-old boy. This was the house of the esteemed Argentinian poet Juan Gelman, but he was not home. Frustrated, the soldiers kidnapped the three young people—Gelman’s daughter, son, and seven-months-pregnant daughter-in-law. They disappeared into the night. In 1990, Gelman found out that his son had been executed and his remains buried in a barrel filled with sand and cement. Ten years later he was able to locate his granddaughter, who had been born in a back-door hospital and given to a pro-government family.

For Juan Gelman, one of the most celebrated Latin American poets of the twentieth century, this was one of many grim events. Born in 1930, his was a life of narrow escapes. As an Ashkenazi Jew, poet, guerrilla fighter, freethinker, and prolific journalist, he escaped three death sentences decreed by groups on both the right and the left in Argentina. He was a victim of state terrorism in that country, and still he made his voice heard.

For his poetry, Gelman was awarded the Cervantes Prize in 2007, the most prestigious award in Spanish literature. Because nothing could suppress his voice, he expressed the dreams of an entire generation.

This biography explores both his writing and the physical, intellectual, and political environment in South America during Gelman’s life, a life that was punctuated by near misses, imprisonments, and the disappearance and torture of family members. Through it all we hear the ringing voice of a singular poet.

Published by Texas Christian University Press